The Tourism and Culture minister has underscored the need to strengthen copyright in the digital environment, lamenting that creative works such as music could now be exploited in many ways such as internet downloading and streaming, thus posing challenges to creators and users.
Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie was speaking Monday morning at The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI) where she presided over the opening ceremony of a five-day seminar for copyright administrators and members of Collecting Society of The Gambia. Regional Copyright Observatory funded the training under the auspices of ECOWAS.
The minister further lamented that creators do not now only worry about those duplicating their CDs or books in a street corner, but that they also have to learn to tackle the internet based infringements which are harder to tackle.
Commending the ECOWAS Copyright Observatory for funding the training, the Tourism minister acknowledged that in developed countries, the creative industries account for a large percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) thanks to what she called effective intellectual property defence mechanisms which enable creators to harvest what they sow and also allow government to benefit from relevant taxes and duties.
"Sadly, in many of our countries in the sub-region, creators still cannot benefit from the sweat of their creations," she lamented. "It is only through initiatives such as the Observatory that the creative community in our ECOWAS sub-region can start to live in a dignity befitting creators, and to allow our governments to also get returns from the investments in cultural infrastructure," she noted.
To this end, she acknowledged that the Observatory is thus set to combat piracy and protect works of cultural creators; ranging from writers, song writers, musicians, dancers, playwrights, and dramatists amongst others in order to make sure that creators in the ECOWAS sphere could benefit financially and morally from their creations.
On the strides of The Gambia government, she informed that in 2004, her ministry managed to have a new Copyright law for The Gambia to replace the "inadequate" Colonial law of 1913. This, she further informed, was followed by series of capacity building and copyright sensitisation programmes and establishment of "a copyright office under the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC). "This office has since facilitated the formation of artists' associations which compose the Collecting Society Board," she informed.
While reiterating her commendation to the ECOWAS Copyright Observatory for selecting The Gambia for the training, Minister Jobe-Njie assured that the latter will continue to solicit ECOWAS assistance to push forward the stakeholders fledgling Copyright Office and Collecting Society.
Other speakers at the occasion included the president of the Regional Copyright Observatory, Adama Sagnon, and the director of Culture, Education, Science and Technology of ECOWAS, Professor Abdoulaye Maga.